By Steve Edwards

As a trainer and nutritionist, I frequently get asked, "What's the best thing I can eat?" Or, "What's the best food in the world?" It's also a subject that easily makes its way onto the glossy pages of the assorted magazines you peruse whilst standing in line at your local market. And there's always an answer. "One food that will change your life!" Or, "Just eat this!" It's so simple, or so they'd have you believe. "If you'd only been eating this one thing you'd be slim, healthy, and look like that supermodel on the cover." You know, something like that.

In this week's Nutrition 911 lesson, we'll take a look at the answer. So, class, just what is the best food in the world? Anyone care to answer?

No, Jack, I'm sorry. Red meat is not the right answer.

But to appease you, Carl, Stuart, and McClown over there trying to get the children's attention, let's look at red meat anyway. After all, most of us eat a lot of it, even though most modern science is showing us that eating too much will lead to health problems. Red meat is the best food choice you can make if you were only given one thing to eat. Therefore, boys, if you were living as an explorer in the 19th century, like Lewis and Clark, it would certainly be a superfood. Red meat has protein (of course), vitamins, and fat. Because you can live on fatty meat for a long time, it was prized in cultures where there were limited food options. Lean meat, which is better for us in the civilized world, wouldn't cut it for trappers who would sometimes die of "rabbit death" because their diets had insufficient fat.

In the modern world, we tend to get plenty of fat, especially the kind you get from meat. Therefore, diets high in red meat are often linked to heart disease and other assorted diseases. Red meat consumption should be limited in a modern diet. And you don't need any at all, as most of its nutrients are found in foods that don't have the same downsides. So now this ancient superfood should be far down on your personal food chain.

What was that, Moonbeam? I couldn't hear you over that guitar. Oh, spirulina.

Yes, spirulina does have a lot of nutrients and is considered a "superfood" by many, especially those who wear a lot of hemp clothing. It's an alga that is very rich in vitamins, has a lot of protein, and even contains some good fatty acids. For one food, it's awfully good. Well, at least nutrient-wise. Eating it is another matter. Its taste is, let's just say, challenging for many. But even if you can eat it as joyously as a plecostomus does, you're still missing certain vitamins, and amino and fatty acids that you need to find elsewhere. While it's a great food, it's not the answer.

You in the overalls, did you say broccoli?

More than any other, broccoli is referred to as "the best food in the world." It is healthy stuff for sure. It's loaded with vitamins, fiber, and even protein. But it lacks fat, and besides, while you can eat a ton of veggies without gaining an ounce, you can only eat so many before all of the fiber begins to have the opposite effect you desire on your digestive system. Fiber is great, to a point. It soaks up cholesterol and keeps you "regular." Too much and you'll become . . . too regular. A cyclist I know once decided to test just how much fiber he could consume. The results came while he was out on a ride, and I, for one, was glad I wasn't following him.

Yes, Siri, hempseed and flaxseed are great, but I think we should draw the line at listing combustible hemp as a possible superfood.

Leaves aside, these seeds are loaded with omega-3 and other essential fatty acids. They even have protein and vitamins, and have been linked with many assorted health benefits. But again, they only contain a portion of the nutrients you need each day. Plus, they are dense, meaning that you can't just munch on 'em all day long without consuming too many calories.

And speaking of fatty acids, fish is loaded with two very important ones, DHA and EPA, and even more protein. A superfood to a degree, it has a huge downside. We've polluted our oceans and waterways to the point that many of the things fish eat are toxic. As we rise up the food chain, we eat the fish that have more protein, more fatty acids, and more and more toxins. Whales and dolphins—fish make up nearly 100 percent of their diets—have very high levels of toxins in their fatty tissues, so much that these high levels exceed superfund cleanup standards. An altogether different problem addresses what we should do about this, but sticking to the subject, I would recommend that you somewhat limit fish consumption, unless you can get some data on fish contamination levels.

Yeah, Bugs, I know you think carrots are the be-all and end-all of nutrition. They're not bad. Loaded with carbohydrates, vitamins, and fiber, it's easy to see how you could outsmart Elmer Fudd all day, since he looks like he's been feasting on mom's apple pie in lieu of rabbit. While carrots are a great energy snack, they lack necessary protein and fats, making it unlikely that you could live on them exclusively, unless you exist in two dimensions.

No, it's the same for blueberries, Violet. They are loaded with antioxidants but are still mainly a sugary carbohydrate source. A good thing to eat, sure, but you shouldn't plan your entire diet around them.

I hate to burst everyone's bubble, but unfortunately, there is no single "best food on the planet." Your body is complex. To function properly, we need to eat from various sources. We consume trees, seeds, leaves, fruits, animals, bugs, weeds, etc., etc. And not just to get a variety of flavors. Different foods make you feel differently because they do different things to your body.

Of course, this doesn't mean that one food is as good as another. There are superfoods out there. But they're all super for one thing. Beachbody's Results and Recovery Formula is a superfood for after a hard workout but would be a terrible food if you weren't exercising. Spinach was super for Popeye, and can be for you, but it would not be the best choice right before a contest of strength with Bluto. There are different foods that are super for different circumstances.

As a society, we've learned to eat for taste. However, there was a time when we ate for performance, which is probably how we began learning what we now call the science of nutrition. Added ingredients in junk foods, like flavorings, have messed up this process, and now we have a hard time distinguishing a food's performance value by taste. We do things like adding sugar to meat that create unnatural cravings. So we need to relearn to eat for performance. Once you begin doing this, you'll retrain your body to crave the right foods for the right circumstances.

Remember that you should eat to fuel your body for what you are going to do. Superfoods are only super if you eat them at the right time to support the right activity. So today's lesson is that there is no best food on the planet. But there are perfect foods for different situations. So next time, we'll talk about nutrient timing.